Since 1947 Casady School has been preparing students with the skills and knowledge that serve as the foundation for successful lives – wherever their lives lead them in this rapidly changing world. Whether a “lifer” or a student who joins the Casady Community in the Middle or Upper Divisions, students receive the very best education, which is built upon developing excellence, confidence, and integrity in each student. This passion for individualized, student-driven, durable, and engaging education has remained steadfast over the past 70-plus years. But the way students learn has evolved, and their school must meet them where they are today.
That mindset inspired Casady School to embark on an intentional evolutionary journey. A journey that will ultimately create more “peak” moments for students. A journey that promotes balance, seeks purpose, and encourages joy.
That is the “why” behind the School’s efforts to reimagine the daily schedule for Middle and Upper Division students. The “when” is 24-months ago when students, faculty, and administration began giving their input into “what” a new schedule could look like. The process has been intentional from the beginning, included extensive research, and was done in consultation with Independent School Management (ISM)
, a nationally-renowned organization known for its expertise in schedule research and design.
The resulting Strategic Academic Plan focuses on five priorities: student wellness, student engagement, durable learning, community engagement, and skills and knowledge. When Middle and Upper Division students return to campus in the fall of 2019, they will step into a new daily schedule, one that reflects these five priorities, leads to “peak” learning opportunities, and stays true to Casady’s mission of developing excellence, confidence, and integrity in its students.
The new daily schedule will include many benefits for students. For example, in Upper Division, a later morning start allows for more sleep. In Middle Division, the schedule will include more unstructured break for play (four-square is a big deal at Casady!), and longer advisory time to thicken relationships between teachers and students.
Instructional time will expand to promote durable learning and student engagement. Longer “vertical blocks” of time ranging from 55-minutes to 110-minutes allow for deeper-dives into the curriculum. These longer blocks promote cross-disciplinary, collaborative, and innovative learning that allows students to solve problems on their own by using critical thinking, collaboration, and negotiation skills, to name a few. Already, there are examples of faculty incorporating these “peak” education moments in their classrooms and seeing their students thrive with, and in, the learning that is taking place. Examples include:
- Fifth grade English and Social Studies where students created their own Dystopian society complete with their own flag, educational system, laws, healthcare, workforce, housing, and government. And they were able to build their city in the digital world of Minecraft in the Middle Division Makerspace lab.
- Students in a World History class put King Louis the XVI on trial to decide if his policies did in fact lead to the French Revolution. Students embraced their roles as jurors, defendant, judges, and witnesses. They dressed up, role played, and handed down a verdict. A reflective writing was still assigned but was far more durable because the students first had to go through a process of collaboration, negotiation, and reflection.
- Middle Division American History students had the opportunity to witness an immigration and naturalization ceremony on Casady’s campus. Last year, students saw more than 50 people from 26 countries express their appreciation and gratitude for the United States and the opportunity to become a citizen of this democracy. What better way is there to engage in rich civic conversations than directly with people benefiting from the "American Dream." Again, this is memorable, durable, engaging learning!
Another benefit to Casady School’s new schedule is that students will have fewer classes each day. This will nurture a slower, gentler pace. There will be fewer transitions, both during the day for class and at night for homework. All of these customized changes were intentionally made to promote Casady’s commitment to students’ holistic wellness and deeper-level learning.
As the 1999 Casady School yearbook staff recognized, “tradition keeps us grounded; improvement moves us forward.” While the processes and techniques of teaching and learning have changed since the School’s founding in 1947, one thing has not, the mission to develop excellence, confidence, and integrity in students so they are prepared for their future. Enthusiasm certainly hums across campus as the School embarks on this season of meaningful change. There is an excitement about this evolution, about the journey, and about what lies ahead. It is truly great to be a Cyclone!